How to make a hedgehog footprint tunnel

Footprint tunnels are probably the best way to detect hedgehogs, they are easy to make and are lots of fun to use! Why not have a go at making one to see what wildlife is visiting your garden? This is a quick guide, but more detail can be found in the People’s Trust for Endangered Species and British Hedgehog Preservation Society survey handbook.

Making footprint tunnels3Step 1. Sheets of short flute (4mm) corrugated plastic (dimensions: 123x100cm) can be purchased online. One sheet with the above dimensions will make one footprint tunnel.

Step 2. A section measuring 21cm wide and 100cm long should be cut away from the rest, using a Stanley knife. This will be the insert panel that will contain the food, ink and paper. The remainder of the sheet can be split equally into four sections (each section roughly measuring 100cm x 25.5cm) and scored with something pointed but not sharp (you don’t want to cut these, just bend). Bend along each of these lines to make the pyramid shaped tunnel that can be seen in the middle photo below.

 

Making footprint tunnels

Step 3. Strips of Velcro can now be attached to hold the tunnel into the pyramid shape. Paper can be paper clipped to each end of the insert panel and masking tape wrapped around the panel above the plain paper at each end. The masking tape strip is where the ink should be painted. Ink can be made my mixing food grade carbon powder with vegetable oil.

We have footprint tunnels and wildlife cameras available for Ipswich residents to borrow. For more information, head to our website pages here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christchurch Park Mammal Morning!

Last Saturday morning myself and a group of enthusiastic participants were up bright and early to go in search of elusive mammals in Christchurch park. The evening before, myself and volunteer Ian had set up 20 Longworth traps and 10 footprint tunnels around the park, and thankfully we only had a few traps left to set as the rain began to fall!

Longworth traps are a survey method used for small mammal population studies as they safely trap mice, voles and shrews in the nest chamber of the trap (full of hay, bird seed, apple and casters), ready to be identified (and sometime marked) in the morning.  Casters are a critical ingredient, as these will satisfy any shrews that are trapped – these insectivores need to eat every few hours to survive!

Footprint tunnels are the main survey method for detecting hedgehogs. They contain food, ink and paper, so that any animals enticed in by the food leave behind their footprints for us to identify!

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We were very pleased to find a young bank vole in the first of our traps, though he/she didn’t fancy sticking around for long, so unfortunately we didn’t manage to sex it. The rest of the traps were empty, but we did find lots of signs of small mammals in the footprint tunnels, with 9/10 tunnels containing teeny tiny footprints.

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We will be running further mammal detective events around Ipswich parks in the coming months, so keep an eye on our Whats On (type ‘hedgehog’ into the search bar for our project events!).  In September we will also be conducting a five night hedgehog survey in Christchurch park to obtain a high level of confidence of hedgehog presence or absence from the park. If you’d like to be involved, please email hedgehogs@suffolkwildlifetrust.org

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An easy way to detect hedgehogs – by looking for poo!

The best way to initially get an indicator of hedgehog activity in your garden, is to look for their poo!

Hedgehog poo is quite distinctive because of their diet. Each dropping is jam packed full of shiny bits of beetle and other invertebrates and seeds, so it is very textured.

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It’s very dark and can vary in size, but is generally the size of the tip of your little finger.Hedgehog poo

You may have a hedgehog visiting and not even realise! Why not have a scout about the garden to see if you can see any signs!

 

 

Random acts of wildness – my #30dayswild!

The Wildlife Trust’s #30DaysWild campaign is probably my favourite conservation campaign going. It’s so important that people appreciate and love nature, after all, it’s this connection that will enthuse everyone to save it! I tend to already spend a lot of my time in the great outdoors, but I love this campaign because it pushes me to get out even more, even if I feel like I don’t have time. There’s always time to squeeze some nature into your day!

There’s lots of ways to have random acts of wildness, purely to enjoy wildlife and the environment, or to help it at the same time! Did you take part in the 30 Days Wild Challenge? It’s not too late if not, why not pick a month and have ago yourself?

Day 1: For the first day of the challenge I had a very busy day in the wildlife area of the Suffolk Show, talking all things hedgehog! I managed to wiz round the trail and visit some of the cool animals Ipswich Wildlife Ranger David had brought along, including a lovely stag beetle, the first I’d ever seen!

Day 2: I decided to go in search of water voles! After work off I went and was rewarded by  a very close encounter of a water vole munching on some vegetation around 1m away from me!

Day 3: This weekend I was heading to the Peak District on a rock climbing trip. I spent the evening star gazing whilst bivvying on a boulder overlooking the hills of Derbyshire (a bivvy is a water proof sleeve for your sleeping bag, so that you can sleep with your head fully out to appreciate the sky at night – glorious!)

Day 4: A beautiful sunrise from the bivvy boulder before starting the day!

Day 5: My garden is very wild! I decided to spend some time identifying the wildflowers in it. I was amazed by how many I found once I started looking, lots with such lovely and colourful flowers.

Day 6: A quick stop off at Bourne Park after work to wander around and, of course, climb a tree!

Day 7: A new Ipswich park for me at lunch time – a quick wander round Alexandra Park, admiring the water front view from the hill and watching a lovely flock of long tailed tits.

Day 8: Today I checked hedgehog footprint tunnels with Sidegate Primary wildlife ambassadors and inspected lots of bugs during a bug hunt! After work I headed to a new park in Ipswich (Gippeswyk park) and admired some lovely trees including a wonderous weeping willow billowing in the breeze.

 

Day 9: This morning I was up bright and early to check my garden moth trap. I always find this incredibly exciting as I never know what species I might find!

Day 10: I chased some very noisy oystercatchers down the estuary on a nice sunny walk, cooling my feet in the river and reading my book on the river beach! That evening I headed to our Big Wildlife Count Night Safari, admired whizzing bats, beautiful moths and lots of tiny toadlets before slinging my hammock up in a tree for the night.

Day 11: Today was an early start to check the mammal traps and footprint tunnels as part of our Big Wildlife Count at Kiln Meadow. Unfortunately no mammals in the traps, but we did get some small rodent footprint in our of our tunnels! Later we emptied the moth traps (some beautiful moths including a lovely buff tip) and headed out on a reptile walk where we were rewarded with tonnes of grass snakes, some slow worms and a lizard!

Day 12: A quick trip to my favourite river beach to admire the Orwell river views.

Day 13: I downloaded the Bee App for the Great British Bee Count and started uploading records after a lunch time survey in the office garden. I spotted red tailed bumblebees, carder bees and white-tailed bumblebee species.

Day 14. Today was a busy day of work before heading on a long old drive to North Wales for a holiday in the mountains! We didn’t arrive until late, so the days wild activity involved putting up a tent in the dark before admiring some MASSIVE slugs that were covering the outdoor sinks.

Day 15: A scramble up Tryfan mountain, admiring the mountainous views and finding unexpected wildlife, like a frog sitting on a rock. Some rock climbing in a nearby nature reserve created some very exciting encounters with Hummingbird Hawkmoths!

Day 16. A second ascent of Tryfan to try a new scramble route and a bivvy on a lovely mossy ledge near the base of the mountain, an evening spent admiring the mountainous views and atmospheric clouds billowing in as darkness fell!

Day 17. More mountain admiration as we spent the day scrambling the southern horseshoe ridgeline around the quieter peaks of Snowdonia.

Day 18. A lovely sea swim followed by some rock climbing, where I happened across a feral pigeon nest in a rock crevice up a cliff, containing two rather plump chicks!

Day 19. My first time in a bee suit as I was invited to check some bee hives. It was rather sweltering in the heat, but brilliant seeing all of the honey bees at work, and we even spotted the queens!

Day 20. This morning a baby starling came hurtling into the conservatory, flapping full pelt at the window to get out! I caught (quickly admired him up close!) then released it into the garden!

Day 21. Summer Solstice! I hadn’t made any plans for the solstice, so decided to camp out in the garden and admire the stars for the night!

Day 22. This morning I awoke in my sleeping bag lying amongst the long long grass in my garden! Another gloriously sunny day!

Day 23. I decided to join a Woodbridge Wildlife Group guided walk in blaxhall common to look for nightjars and glow worms. Unfortunately no glow worms found, but we did hear lots of mechanical churring from the nightjars, and saw one fly across the heath!

Day 24. An exploration of the Ipswich river footpath out of town. Here I found lots of urban wildlife, including these great cinnabar and drinker moth caterpillars.

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Day 25. Today Team Hedgehog walked the Orwell 25 – a 25 mile walk along the Orwell Estuary, to raise awareness and funds for hedgehogs! We saw lots of house martins, a lesser stag beetle, heard turtle doves and I learnt how to identify two plants, Hare’s-foot Clover and Dittander.

Day 26. I was too achey to walk too far for todays random act of wildness, so I decided to admire the lovely blue sky and have a go at identifying the different cloud formations.

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Day 27. Today I had a quick rummage around the garden and found lots of garden spider nests full of spiderlings, one in the grass with webbing wrapped round lots of grass and clover, and two in our lavender bush.

Day 28. A garden night safari! Out I went with my bat detector and torch to see what I could find. Unfortunately no bats seen (or heard), but I did find some cool spiders (that didn’t like the light), a large garden snail, and lots of micro moths amongst the long grass.

Day 29. After a day in the office I was heading to London to attend the People’s Trust for Endangered Species 40th birthday celebrations, so I had a quick trip to Hyde Park before the event. It was packed full of people, but it didn’t take long to find a wilder spot with longer grass and some lovely trees, including a lovely weeping beech tree!

Day 30. Today I headed to a nearby chalk pit to look for glow worms, and managed to find two glowing females! Beautiful!

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June is now over, but I know that I’ll continue to have random acts of wildness! If you’d like to get involved, there are loads of great tips on the Wildlife Trusts website, here.

 

Hedgehog habits – a population study in North West Ipswich

The last few months have been very intense but very fun. I, alongside the help of our two hedgehog interns, colleagues and many volunteers, have been running a hedgehog population study in North West Ipswich for Nottingham Trent University. These months have been jam packed full of night surveys, hedgehog chasing, walking around with a massive (radio tracking) aerial,  bramble rummaging, garden visits, meeting lots of pet dogs and cats, setting up cameras, video clip watching, lovely garden owners, lots of walking and many, many hedgehogs.

Firstly, I wanted to say a massive thank you to everyone that has been involved – the 120 garden owners in North West Ipswich and all the volunteers that have helped me with the study along the way. For those of you that haven’t been involved, I thought I would tell you what we’ve been up to here in Ipswich since March.

There are several methods currently used for detecting hedgehog presence, but estimating hedgehog population densities are difficult because current methods have either low detection rates or can’t be used across all habitat types. This study is part of a larger project being conducted across the UK by Nottingham Trent University to try and rectify this issue. Our 1km2 site in Ipswich is just one of many sites that aim to validate a method for estimating hedgehog population density using a Random Encounter Model. The model relies on trail cameras being randomly distributed across a study area, using data on camera detection rates, survey effort, area covered and distances animals have travelled. So to get started, at the beginning of April off we went to our study area to get randomly selected garden owners on board. After lots of door knocking, persuading and garden visits (to check they had suitable hedgehog highways!) we managed to get our 120 gardens lined up and ready for the trail cameras to be installed!

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Hedgehog intern Carol with the trusty clipboard, keeping of track of which houses we had knocked on!

But before we started installing cameras, we needed to get an independent estimate of hedgehog density in the study area. To do this, we conducted night surveys to capture, mark and recapture hedgehogs. This estimate would be used to compare to the estimate achieved using the Random Encounter Model. All catching and marking was done under license – we marked 28 individual hedgehogs and tagged six with GPS/radio transmitters. These surveys relied on us becoming nocturnal – from 11pm to 4am off we went clad in high-vis, walking our transects to see how many hedgehogs we could encounter. Whilst many hedgehogs, as you might expect, curl up in a ball upon being seen, some where actually incredibly speedy. I definitely hadn’t been expecting to run after a hedgehog! Each hedgehog under went a health check before being given a small unique mark (small coloured straws on some of their spines!), and we were reassured by the good health of the hedgehogs we were encountering.

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Three hedgehogs with individual marks to identify if recaptured

Now there were hedgehogs wandering around the study area with radio tags, our job was to relocate the hedgehogs for health checks and tag removals. We got lots of funny looks with the very large radio tracking aerial – and I’m not surprised. The best suggestions were that we must be tracking aliens, ghosts and houses without TV licenses.  We were rummaging around in lots of bushes (to check up on tagged hedgehogs in their day nests), and generally looking a little odd.

One of our hedgehog Interns, Jo, helping radio track hedgehogs!

The next stage of the project involved contacting the 120 garden owners that had agreed to take part, so that we could set the cameras up and start collecting more data. This involved watching lots of video clips of hedgehogs, cats, dogs, foxes and the odd mouse and rat, and taking lots of measurements. We got some lovely footage of courting hedgehogs, bouncing foxes and a rather amusing clip of a hedgehog falling down a step (pretty sure it survived the ordeal!) It was lovely to see how over-joyed garden owners were to discover hedgehogs using their gardens.

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We were very lucky with the weather and on many occasions had glorious sunshine. We were even treated to boxes of chocolate, home made cake and fresh lemonade – luxury! Of course we did luck out on a couple of days and had to tuck under large umbrellas to save the laptop from the rain!

The study is now coming to a close and whilst it’s been a very busy few months, I have to say, I will certainly miss it! Thank you so much for everyone that has been involved and for Nottingham Trent University for including us in the project. Now it’s time to create some large spreadsheets to send over for analysis!

 

 

 

 

Sidegate school hedgehog monitoring!

Last week saw another wildlife day at Sidegate Primary School, this time showing the wildlife ambassadors how to monitor for wildlife like hedgehogs, and their important prey, invertebrates.  We started the morning by checking three hedgehog tunnels that we had placed around the school grounds the night before, as well as a wildlife camera stealthily placed in one of the wildlife areas. Whilst one footprint tunnel contained just one single fat slug, we were very pleased to find one of the tunnels had hedgehog footprints and another had lots of small rodent footprints!

Unfortunately no hedgehogs were picked up on the camera (just a lot of swaying grass!), but Ed Boyle, Ipswich Wildlife Ranger, did find a frog and lots of tadpoles in the school pond whilst we were checking the footage.

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After a quick break we headed out to the edges of the school field loaded with bug pots, sweep nets and identification guides, to see what bugs we could find as part of the Great Bug Hunt primary school competition.

Off the children went in pairs lifting up logs, rocks, sweeping nets along the hedges and rummaging around the grass to see what they could find. We had a good look at lots of spiders, woodlice, beetles and bees, before it was time for lunch, and the end of our wildlife session for the day.

The footprint tunnels stayed at the school so that students could continue to monitor the fields for hedgehogs, and just last week I learnt that they detected hedgehogs in all three corners of the school grounds. The grounds team will soon to be installing extra Hedgehog Highways too, so fingers crossed the school will continue to have visiting hedgehogs for future wildlife ambassadors to monitor too!

If you are based in Ipswich and would like to monitor your garden or local green space for hedgehogs with our footprint tunnels, get in touch!

 

Suffolk Show – thank you to Barnes Construction!

This years theme for the Suffolk Show wildlife area was wildlife homes, with a fun bingo trail weaving through the wildflower filled meadow. First stop, after entering the trail under a massive Hedgehog Highway, was us, team hedgehog!

We were lucky enough to have an amazing mock hedgehog friendly fence for our stand, created by Barnes Construction. Hedgehogs can roam around 2km in a night, making access to gardens, through Hedgehog Highways, crucial. We wanted to demonstrate the ease and variety of ways in which these can be created; through gates, brick walls, concrete gravel boards, security fencing, wooden fencing, wire fencing, and even using tunnels to deter pets.

Our beautiful hedgehog fencing, alongside lots of information about our Ipswich hedgehog project and a large map of our Hedgehog Champion network, was accompanied by a huge painted hedgehog where passers by could write a pledge, telling us how they were going to help their local hedgehog populations.

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Further along the trail we had a bird quiz, with a variety of nesting boxes to match the singing bird to, Suffolk bat group, pond dipping, bug hunting, bee keeping and Ipswich Wildlife Group helping the public make their very own wildlife homes to take away. We also had some fab animals too – stag beetles, amphibian larvae, grass snakes and slow worms!

Thanks to everyone that visited – it is thought that we had around 10,000 visitors pass through over the two days. We hope you enjoyed our wildlife area, and visit again next year!

 

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Holywells Night Safari

This month we celebrated Hedgehog Awareness Week. We were lucky enough to be joined by street artist ATM, who created an amazing hedgehog mural on Kings Street in the centre of town. We also ran a Night Safari in Holywells Park, where I was joined by David Dowding, an Ipswich park Wildlife Ranger and Tarra Benjamin, from Suffolk Bat Group, to help us find some elusive nocturnal wildlife!

David had brought along some of his own amphibians, so we started by looking at these newts and toads close up. Then, as darkness was descending, we distributed the bat detectors, night vision monocular and high power torches, and went on our way around the park. We started by skirting the ponds, finding stickleback in the water and then bats whizzing up and down the pathway, feeding above our heads. We headed around the woodland, looking out for mammals with the night vision monocular and thermal imaging gadget, before stopping at the ponds at the other end of the park. Here we found more fish and some amphibians, including a lovely smooth newt and small toad. We were treated to more bat displays above the water, and caught them on the thermal imaging device as white blobs zipping across the screen!

Smooth newt in the spotlight of the torch, and the white dot showing a bat in the sky!

We slowly headed back to the start of the walk to check the moth trap. Unfortunately only a few moths – flame shoulders, green carpet and  brimstone moths were seen, but David had a few beautiful hawk-moths to show us too!

We’ll be running Night Safaris in other parks across Ipswich throughout the year. To keep up to date with events, check out our What’s On: http://www.suffolkwildlifetrust.org/whats-on

Hello to our Hedgehog Interns!

I wanted to introduce our two hedgehog interns – Carol Eden and Jo Wilkinson. They started back in April to help us with a hedgehog study we are conducting in Ipswich. They have been absolutely amazing with their hoggy enthusiasm and hard work! I asked them both to write a little something about themselves so that you could get an insight into who they are and why they wanted to help on our project.

First up, Carol:

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“My family and I have always had a strong interest in wildlife conservation. My parents have operated a wildlife trust in Kenya for years and I have been lucky enough to accompany them on three separate occasions to visit projects in Africa. I moved from London to Ipswich in 2016 and began volunteering with Suffolk Wildlife Trust with their educational outreach team. I enjoyed this hugely and continue  to volunteer with this project; however I knew I would have plenty of free time this summer and so applied for a conservation internship with SWT. They soon responded with the offer of a Hedgehog Internship – how could I resist?

            As a young child my father would occasionally bring home hedgehogs curled up in his hat; that he had scooped up outside on our street, which we’d then release into our garden. These interludes were always exciting for us as children, though in retrospect I suspect my mother was often less impressed! Sadly these events dwindled as we grew older, and in fact before starting this project I had not seen a hedgehog in the flesh since the early 00s. These elusive creatures are facing so many challenges in our modern day world and any steps I can undertake to help these cute creatures is a step worth taking!

Working with Ali and the Ipswich community to implement this hedgehog population study has been great fun, educational and I am so pleased and proud to be helping make Ipswich, bit by bit, a hedgehog friendly town.

Next, Jo, from Sheffield:

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 “I’m a master’s student studying environmental science at the University of Sheffield. My degree is really broad ranging so I’ve been lucky enough to try my hand at lots of stuff, from climate change to animal behaviour. Ecology seems to be the thing that always draws me back in! I came across the job after I was browsing the Indeed job app, thinking to myself “what would be my dream job?”. I ended up typing in ‘Hedgehogs’ and there it was – my dream job!

I’ve always had a special connection with hedgehogs and I’m the resident hedgehog nut in my conservation society. They’re such a magical animal, with so much rubbish to contend with. That’s what drew me in, to have the opportunity to do something that might help them. I couldn’t think of a more suitable job for me. I’m hoping I can take the skills I’m gaining and apply them in Sheffield, maybe working with the Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust to set up something similar. I couldn’t be more thankful to the Suffolk Wildlife Trust for having me on board their hedgehog project.”

The work we are doing in Ipswich really would not have been possible without the help of our interns and volunteers – so thank you to everyone that has been involved so far!

 

Hedgehog Awareness Week – what’s on and your chance to win a wildlife hamper!

Hedgehog Awareness Week is a national campaign ran by British Hedgehog Preservation Society. This year the week runs from Sunday 30th April to Saturday 6th May and we will have several fun activities going on around Ipswich for residents to get involved!

If you haven’t already – now is the perfect time to help those hogs!

Top tips for helping hedgehogs:

  1. Make sure hedgehogs can access your garden. Many gardens are surrounded by walls or concrete gravel boards, making access to habitat in urban areas really difficult for hedgehogs. A 13x13cm hole in the bottom of the fence, or gap under the gate will do the trick! If you live in Ipswich, you can be in with a chance of winning a fab hedgehog hamper if you send a photo of your Hedgehog Highway! Details below.
  2. Be a little less tidy. Hedgehogs love eating bugs, so having patches or strips of longer grass, keeping leaves on the ground and planting wildflower seeds will help create feeding habitat (and will encourage other lovely garden visitors like butterflies). Log piles and piles of old vegetation will help create nesting spots. Try to reduce or stop using chemicals to make your garden a wildlife haven.
  3. Spread the word. Encourage your neighbours to help too – hedgehogs roam around 2km in a night and so need access to lots of gardens to survive. You can help spread the word by becoming an Ipswich Hedgehog Champion by heading to our website here.

Your chance to win a Hedgehog Hamper!

To receive a Hedgehog Highway plaque and to be in with a chance of winning our hedgehog hamper, photos of your Ipswich Hedgehog Highway fence or wall holes should be sent to hedgehogs@suffolkwildlifetrust.org alongside the post code of the highway and a postal address. Each entry will be entered into a prize draw for a chance to win a fab hedgehog hamper. We are very grateful to some lovely businesses and individuals for donating to this. The hamper includes a lovely butterfly mix tin of Butterfly Conservation recommended wildflower seeds created and donated by Seedball (https://www.seedball.co.uk/), a woven igloo hedgehog house and bag of tasty hedgehog food donated by Ipswich Homebase (http://www.homebase.co.uk/en/homebaseuk/garden), a set of Hedgehog Street Hedgehog Highway plaques and a beautiful home-made hedgehog canvas bag made by one of our Ipswich Hedgehog Champions.

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Hedgehog Street Art

We are very pleased to be hosting street artist ATM between Tuesday 4th and Thursday 6th May to paint a beautiful hedgehog mural in the centre of town, opposite the Corn Exchange by the Swan Pub. If you’d like to see the painting in action, please do wander past to take a look! Examples of his previous work can be found here: http://globalstreetart.com/atm

Holywells Park Night Safari

Come along to help us discover the elusive nocturnal wildlife of Holywells Park. We will be using thermal imaging and night vision technology to look for hedgehogs and other mammals, torches to look for amphibians, light traps to identify moths, and bat detectors to look out for flying mammals! The event is being led by our SWT Hedgehog Officer,  Suffolk Bat Group and Ipswich Park Rangers. There will be the opportunity to find out more about the work these groups do across Ipswich, wildlife recording, being an Ipswich Hedgehog Champion and how you can help us monitor hedgehogs in your own gardens across Ipswich. Weather dependent and limited spaces. Booking essential. Book here: http://www.suffolkwildlifetrust.org/events/2017/05/05/night-safari-holywells-park?instance=0

Hedgehogs are in trouble and need all the help they can get – Hedgehog Awareness Week is the perfect time to get started!